Paul Konerko, back for a farewell tour (Getty)
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn had an active, interesting, expensive and undeniably productive offseason. Of course his team was horrendous last year, winning only 63 games and ranking last in the A.L. in runs-scored, so it's not as if he could simply afford to tread water.
We have a bunch of new faces to discuss here, so let's get the south side Q&A started with the team's priciest addition...
Q: Just how good can Jose Abreu be in his first MLB season? If we want him in fantasy, where do we have to draft him?
A: Abreu will almost certainly be a beast in the power categories. Let's start there. Sure, the Cuban defector is making a significant leap in terms of quality-of-competition, but it's not as if he's the first hitter to transition recently from Serie Nacional. The numbers delivered by Abreu over multiple seasons in Cuba's top league were obscene. He hit 30 homers in 89 games in 2009-10, then 33 in 66 games the following year, tying Yoennis Cespedes for the league lead. In 2011-12, it was 35 bombs in 87 games. His best single-season slash-line was .453/.597/.986.
Do those numbers work for you? Let's hope.
[Baseball 2014 from Yahoo Fantasy Sports: Join a league today!]
Abreu was a frequent category leader in Cuba, a record-breaking slugger who's been terrific in international competitions. You can believe in his power. At age 27, he's at or near his peak right now. I won't promise you a batting average north of .300, but a 30-homer season wouldn't be much of a surprise.
If you're looking for additional background on Abreu, I'll direct you to this excellent piece by Jonah Keri at Grantland, and this one from Ben Badler at Baseball America. The Sox weren't the only team bidding in excess of $60 million for his services, so plenty of scouts are convinced he'll be an impact bat. We're not talking about a flawless player here, but, as hitting coach Todd Steverson has said, "He is a very strong man."
Abreu's draft stock is likely to move considerably based on spring propaganda, so it's difficult to tell you exactly where to target him. In my most recent experts mock — this one, an 18-teamer hosted by FanGraphs' Eno Sarris — Abreu was the first pick of the seventh round, No. 109 overall. He went 10 picks later than Michael Cuddyer, 10 ahead of Matt Adams. My guess is that Abreu will be a bit pricier when we're drafting for keeps, in 4-5 weeks.
Q: OK, how 'bout this team's other new corner infielder, Matt Davidson? What's the scoop with him?
A: Davidson arrived from Arizona in the Addison Reed trade, and, at least to me, it seemed like a nice return. (But I'm basically always in favor of bad teams dealing closers.) Last year, at age 22, Davidson hit 17 homers at Triple-A Reno, then another three in the big leagues. He's shown respectable power at every level — 18 homers in 2010, 20 in 2011, 23 in 2012 — with decent on-base skills (.351 OBP). He might not open the season as Chicago's third baseman, but we'll see him soon enough — he's not blocked by anyone intimidating. He'll do his hitting in a friendly home environment, too, so it's reasonable to expect a decent power total. You don't need to actually draft Davidson in most mixers, but you'll want to file away the name for later use.
Nate Jones, discount closer? (USAT Images)
A: As of this writing, Nate Jones appears to be the favorite. Which is awesome, because Nate Jones definitely has a closing-quality arsenal. His average fastball velocity last season was 97.7 mph, and he throws a hard slider as well. Jones has the stuff to run away with the ninth, no doubt. He's the guy to draft in this 'pen. He struck out 89 batters in 78.0 innings last year, which is pretty badass.
If Jones stumbles in spring play, Matt Lindstrom lurks on the depth chart, as do new arrivals Ronald Belisario and Scott Downs. Hard-throwing Daniel Webb is the darkhorse here.
Q: Doesn't this team have too many outfielders? Who's gonna sit?
A: Ideally, Dayan Viciedo would be the odd man out, because he's such a perfectly ordinary player (-0.1 WAR in 2013) and a defensive plague (-6.0 UZR). He's of little interest to fantasy owners, unless his power spikes in his age-25 season. Viciedo won't hit for average and he can't run. Still, his name currently sits atop the depth chart in left. Bah. Alejandro De Aza has been a much more useful ballplayer (and he's coming off a 17/20 season), but he seems ticketed for the role of fourth outfielder. De Aza should still see 400-plus at-bats, but he'll be a high-maintenance fantasy commodity if he remains in Chicago.Adam Eaton is new to the south side, and he's a welcome addition. He gave his fantasy owners only a partial year in 2013, due to a significant elbow injury, but he still projects as an ideal lead-off hitter. The 25-year-old was an on-base machine in the minors (career .348/.450/.501!), and he twice swiped over 30 bags. If he has a healthy year, you'll like the results — think Nori Aoki, with perhaps a few more steals.
In right we find yet another young talent, 22-year-old Avisail Garcia. He was acquired from Detroit last season via trade, and he was plenty productive for the Sox over 168 plate appearances: 5 HR, 3 SB, .304/.327/.447. At an age when many players are trying to crack Double-A, Garcia was a competent big leaguer. That's no small thing. He's never flashed exceptional power or speed in the minors, although he managed to go 14/23 in 2012. Garcia hit .374 over 41 games at Triple-A last season, too. He rarely walks and often Ks so we can't give him high marks for plate discipline, but he'll do enough to assist owners in deep mixers.
Q: What's the plan for Paul Konerko?
A: He's a local treasure, basically. Paulie is also turning 38, not slated for an everyday role. Expect him to pick up at-bats at DH, and to occasionally relieve Abreu. Definitely not someone you need to think about in mixed leagues. If you're playing in an A.L.-only format (or any format where 280-340 ABs are a big deal), then I suppose he's on the radar. But that's it.
Q: So Adam Dunn is now...?
A: A trade chip for the Sox, I guess. He's a player in the final year of a colossal deal. Dunn has hit 75 bombs over the past two seasons, so we can't ignore him for fantasy purposes. But you'd obviously have to manage around his massive deficiency, that .205-ish batting average. Better to get your power elsewhere. If you're punting AVG, however, he has plenty of appeal.
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